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Civil Service rainbow lanyards spark row

Concerns: Jim Allister
Concerns: Jim Allister
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) has been criticised over the launch of a rainbow lanyard.

It was announced on Thursday that civil servants were given the option to use the neck wear in support of their LGBT colleagues.

Launching the lanyards on Thursday, David Sterling tweeted: "Proud to launch our new rainbow lanyards today. A visible way to demonstrate LGBT inclusion in the workplace.

"Anyone in the NICS can choose to wear one if they wish to show support for LGBT colleagues in this way."

However, TUV leader Jim Allister has written to Mr Sterling expressing his dismay at his "partisan attitude", adding that a number of civil servants have contacted him as they are concerned over the lanyards.

"Recently, in connection with the launch of the LGBT lanyard, you said, 'I want everyone to feel comfortable to be their true self in work'," Mr Allister wrote.

"Can I ask you, therefore, if you want those who, for reasons of conscience or religious conviction, feel unable to endorse or promote the LGBT lifestyle, to feel uncomfortable and untrue to themselves in the workplace? Or, have you no thought for them? "You might say the LGBT lanyard is 'voluntary', but you must realise that when it is promoted from the highest level within NICS, then, the effect is to make any dissenter feel pressurised to conform and discomforted in the workplace by reason of refusing to embrace the particular moral and political view that the head of the Civil Service is promoting."

Responding to Mr Allister's letter, a spokesperson for the Executive Office stated that the Civil Service is committed to a diverse, inclusive and supportive workplace for all colleagues.

"Rainbow lanyards are a simple and effective way to demonstrate LGBT inclusion and are worn by staff in organisations across all sectors," they continued. "NICS rainbow lanyards are entirely voluntary and colleagues can choose whether or not they wish to wear one."

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